On October 10, 2014 and at the age of 85, Masami Tsuruoka, the father of Canadian karate, died.
A still of Masami Tsuruoka taken from Otousan: The Life Of Masami Tsuruoka.
Masami Tsuruoka was born in Cumberland, B.C. in 1929 and faced some difficulties many in the Japanese Canadian community are familiar with. Along with his father and siblings, Tsuruoka was interned during the Second World War in Canada. He had to leave his home town for New Denver, but he would be moved to interment camps in Tashme and Rosebery.
At the end of the war, Tsuruoka’s father moved back to Japan, to Kumamoto, taking his youngest daughter and Tsuruoka with him. In Japan, he was picked on because he was born in a foreign country and he was skinny, which gave him a reason to pick up martial arts and bulk up.
In his teens, he discovered a karate demonstration in a park on his way to Tokyo and it brought him into the world of karate. With Tsuyoshi Chitose, the founder of Chito-ryu karate, Tsuruoka developed his skills, but this was just the first step in what would become a legendary career with the martial art when he returned to Canada in 1956.
In a recent article in The Globe and Mail, Tsuruoka was remembered by Frank Foulkes, who studies under him for 51 years. Foulkes said that Masami instilled, “a sense of self-discipline in his students” and gave them the confidence to go far beyond their capabilities.
According to the article, Tsuruoka received many honours and awards with the 1967 Centennial Medal, the Queen’s 25th Anniversary Medal (1977), the Queen’s Golden Anniversary Medal (1992), the Order of Ontario (1998), and Grandmaster award in the Canadian Black Belt Hall of Fame (2006) among them.
For more information, be sure to check out Frank Foulke’s story on Masami Tsuruoka on The Globe and Mail’s website. Below find a video of O’Sensei’s Technical Seminar held on Feb 2012 by Karate Ontario.